One of the great challenges facing contemporary Christians (at least in the West) is our comfort level with being alive on planet earth. Now, reading the Ancient Covenant text (OT) one senses that this terrrestial life was "all there was" in the hopes and dreams of Israel. So, I am hesitant to make too big a deal about the settledness of Western life. Yet, we are also readers of a New Covenant text and are called to read the more ancient writings in and through the Jesus story. Jesus, Jewish to His human-divine core, was pretty consistently against the idea of loving wealth too much, family too much, earthly existence too much.
It is said that people who are destitute generate more "other worldly" hope as an escape mechanism. Worldly wise scholars knowingly wink as the deconstruct the childish hopes of the poor as mere projection. I admit, on a logical level, this makes sense. I can see how their point makes sense. But, ironically, by the same logic the inverse is also true. It is also the case the full and wealthy are so stuffed and distracted that they ignore the "far horizon" and do not ponder its meaning. If poor people pro-ject and rich people re-ject as a function of economic (in)security then we are left with the question unanswered. What is the right relation to this world and what is a legitimate hope about the world to come?
I fall into the category of the well-to-do. The resources available to me and mine are unimaginable to most people who have ever lived or are currently living on planet earth. For example, each day people from Germany, Russia and a dozen other nations read my blog. What King had such an instant reach in any age before 1920? we eat fresh produce from various countries, even in the dead of winter. I have food in abundance, a wonderful community and educational resources to rival the greatest libraries in history at the tip of my fingers. So many blessings...
I am also a middle class American, which means the one resource I do not have is time. Between work and home commitments I rarely relax. Most weeks I have several days when I sleep less then 5 hours and when I do it is frequently broken up. I would feel sorry for myself but everyone I know seems to be in a similar situation. Blessed and busy, my mind rarely drifts into contemplation of eternity. Not because I do not believe, but because I cannot find time.
Such a situation is not helpful for forming a proper and well ordered attitude toward the world in which we live.
IF we are sojourners on earth, then we are foreigners here as well.
IF our home is the Kingdom of God, then we are exiles in this present condition.
IF all things are not fully reconciled, healed and restored, then we are living in an environment hostile to our true nature.
IF we are homeless, then we need a homeless shelter...
I would offer the church is, among other things, called to serve that function. A group of displaced people, regardless of socio economic condition, we need a place to gather for the essentials of life. A place to eat (eucharist), interact (community), learn how to live into the new life (Scripture and study and living together), find support (care and counseling) and order our lives under a banner that is worthwhile (piety and worship).
Calling my parish a homeless shelter would not resonate for many of my folks here, they do not feel like they are homeless. Yet, toward the end of life many catch on. The body (even of the rich and famous) breaks down. The thrill is gone from the distractions which occuppy so much time. We don't find the same excitment getting up each day and doing the things we do (even if there is still fun and laughter). And our eyes are open to see a better place. And if we do church right, we will awaken that hunger earlier and more intensely. And our churches will be places of great generousity and kindness. Because who wants to hoard their stuff when they are living on the road? Especially a road to the Kingdom of God!